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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Define bone, cartilage, and the skeletal system
  • List and describe the functions of the skeletal system

Bone , or osseous tissue    , is a hard, dense connective tissue that forms most of the adult skeleton, the support structure of the body. In the areas of the skeleton where bones move (for example, the ribcage and joints), cartilage    , a semi-rigid form of connective tissue, provides flexibility and smooth surfaces for movement. The skeletal system    is the body system composed of bones and cartilage and performs the following critical functions for the human body:

  • supports the body
  • facilitates movement
  • protects internal organs
  • produces blood cells
  • stores and releases minerals and fat

Support, movement, and protection

The most apparent functions of the skeletal system are the gross functions—those visible by observation. Simply by looking at a person, you can see how the bones support, facilitate movement, and protect the human body.

Just as the steel beams of a building provide a scaffold to support its weight, the bones and cartilage of your skeletal system compose the scaffold that supports the rest of your body. Without the skeletal system, you would be a limp mass of organs, muscle, and skin.

Bones also facilitate movement by serving as points of attachment for your muscles. While some bones only serve as a support for the muscles, others also transmit the forces produced when your muscles contract. From a mechanical point of view, bones act as levers and joints serve as fulcrums ( [link] ). Unless a muscle spans a joint and contracts, a bone is not going to move. For information on the interaction of the skeletal and muscular systems, that is, the musculoskeletal system, seek additional content.

Bones support movement

This photo shows a man exercising on a leg press machine at a gym.
Bones act as levers when muscles span a joint and contract. (credit: Benjamin J. DeLong)

Bones also protect internal organs from injury by covering or surrounding them. For example, your ribs protect your lungs and heart, the bones of your vertebral column (spine) protect your spinal cord, and the bones of your cranium (skull) protect your brain ( [link] ).

Bones protect brain

This illustration shows how the cranium protects and surrounds the brain. Only the outline of the cranium is visible, which is made transparent to show how the brain sits in the skull. There is a small amount of space between the brain and the cranium but the top and sides of the brain are completely protected by the cranial bones. The bottom of the brain extends below the cranial bones, with the base of the cerebellum seated just above the roof of the mouth. The medulla extends to the bottom of the skull where it meets with the spinal cord.
The cranium completely surrounds and protects the brain from non-traumatic injury.

Career connection

Orthopedist

An orthopedist    is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders and injuries related to the musculoskeletal system. Some orthopedic problems can be treated with medications, exercises, braces, and other devices, but others may be best treated with surgery ( [link] ).

Arm brace

This photo shows a man wearing a black arm brace on his upper arm and forearm. The brace is composed of an L shaped metal piece attached to an adjustable joint and four adjustable straps. The joint occurs at the elbow. One of the metal bars projects proximally from the joint up the forearm towards the shoulder. This bar is secured with two black straps to a foam cuff that wraps around the entire upper arm. The other metal bar projects distally from the joint, down the forearm, to the wrist. This bar is secured by two smaller foam wraps, one wrapping around the middle of the forearm and the other wrapping around the wrist.
An orthopedist will sometimes prescribe the use of a brace that reinforces the underlying bone structure it is being used to support. (credit: Juhan Sonin)

While the origin of the word “orthopedics” (ortho- = “straight”; paed- = “child”), literally means “straightening of the child,” orthopedists can have patients who range from pediatric to geriatric. In recent years, orthopedists have even performed prenatal surgery to correct spina bifida, a congenital defect in which the neural canal in the spine of the fetus fails to close completely during embryologic development.

Orthopedists commonly treat bone and joint injuries but they also treat other bone conditions including curvature of the spine. Lateral curvatures (scoliosis) can be severe enough to slip under the shoulder blade (scapula) forcing it up as a hump. Spinal curvatures can also be excessive dorsoventrally (kyphosis) causing a hunch back and thoracic compression. These curvatures often appear in preteens as the result of poor posture, abnormal growth, or indeterminate causes. Mostly, they are readily treated by orthopedists. As people age, accumulated spinal column injuries and diseases like osteoporosis can also lead to curvatures of the spine, hence the stooping you sometimes see in the elderly.

Some orthopedists sub-specialize in sports medicine, which addresses both simple injuries, such as a sprained ankle, and complex injuries, such as a torn rotator cuff in the shoulder. Treatment can range from exercise to surgery.

Mineral storage, energy storage, and hematopoiesis

On a metabolic level, bone tissue performs several critical functions. For one, the bone matrix acts as a reservoir for a number of minerals important to the functioning of the body, especially calcium, and phosphorus. These minerals, incorporated into bone tissue, can be released back into the bloodstream to maintain levels needed to support physiological processes. Calcium ions, for example, are essential for muscle contractions and controlling the flow of other ions involved in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Bone also serves as a site for fat storage and blood cell production. The softer connective tissue that fills the interior of most bone is referred to as bone marrow ( [link] ). There are two types of bone marrow: yellow marrow and red marrow. Yellow marrow contains adipose tissue; the triglycerides stored in the adipocytes of the tissue can serve as a source of energy. Red marrow is where hematopoiesis    —the production of blood cells—takes place. Red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are all produced in the red marrow.

Head of femur showing red and yellow marrow

This photo shows the head of the femur detached from the rest of the bone. The compact bone at the surface of the head has been removed to show the spongy bone beneath. Rather than being solid, like the compact bone, the spongy bone is mesh like with many open spaces, giving it the appearance of a sponge. A circle of yellow marrow is located at the exact center of the spongy bone. The red marrow surrounds the yellow marrow, occupying most of the interior space of the head.
The head of the femur contains both yellow and red marrow. Yellow marrow stores fat. Red marrow is responsible for hematopoiesis. (credit: modification of work by “stevenfruitsmaak”/Wikimedia Commons)

Chapter review

The major functions of the bones are body support, facilitation of movement, protection of internal organs, storage of minerals and fat, and hematopoiesis. Together, the muscular system and skeletal system are known as the musculoskeletal system.

Questions & Answers

what is the meaning of sutures
Ibrahim Reply
i do not know
Nimo
immovable joints btn two bones.eg the skull bones
Japhar
Really,it's true
Nimco
Sutures are immovable junction between two bones e.g those of the skull
Surphy
what should I do to get or to know what to do for me to be excellent in the course of anatomy and physiology
Sandra Reply
study harder
Japhar
Between the heart and the Brain which one is more important to human being... discuss
Faith Reply
well the brain is important for motor skills, the heart is important for involuntary muscle movement supporting body functions. the body can survive without brain involvement, but the body cannot last without the heart
john
granted the heart is important, but the brain gives the body purpose
john
the brain is more important
Kevin
why?
john
brain
tracey
Even though the brain helps the human being to behave normally and purposefully, I think the heart is much more important cos human being cannot live without the heart
Dzifa
why?
john
change the question
Bind
hello guys
Kevin
heart
Kevin
it is difficult to select which organ is more important, now you can replace the heart with a mechanical device and the body could still function, and with technology today brain activity can also be replicated. But life would not be the same
john
there's coordination btn the two..so without any of them no life
Japhar
the heart
The brain is important to humans.
Zozo
what is homeostasis
Rebecca Reply
what is the composition of saliva
Vijay Reply
ഫസ്റ്റ് ചാപ്റ്റർ ഇംപോർട്ടൻസ് പോസ്റ്റ്
Reshma Reply
Yes....
Loving
nhi samjh aya
Anshika
Nhi wt is this
Loving
I don't know
Anshika
Okk wre frm u r
Loving
what is mean of? reshma
Asad
I don't know but would like to
Rebecca
D bone in d ankle joint re what ?
Ifunanya Reply
patellar
Ibrahim
can one define a cell as a basic unit of a living organism
Michael Reply
cell is the structural and functional unit of living organisms
Fidel
Which of the following hormones are responsible for the adolescent growth spurt? estrogen and testosterone, even in women?
Kepa Reply
estrogen
Farhana
Estrogen!
Jazil
estrogen hormone
Michael
yes estrogen hormone
Anshika
yes
Sale
testrogen
Rebecca
What is sling give d characteristics of sling uses of sling
adamu Reply
a sling a rope used in hunting ie throwing of rocks
Michael
I went to learn anatomy of joints
Arman Reply
me 2
adamu
joint have 3 cartilaginous joint fibrous joint synovial joint U can reserch in Google can explain U well
sopheaktra
define sling
adamu
To throw with a circular or arcing motion
real
pls hux I was given an assignment,, Between the heart and Brain which one is more important to human being... discuss
Faith
what is respiration
Osele Reply
what is respiration
Paul
Respiration is the process by which oxygen is taken in and carbon dioxide is given out.
Md
Respiration is the combination of inhalation and exhalation.
Khim
inhalation is the taking in air from environment to lung and exhalation is taking out sir from the lung to environment ..
Khim
is the process by wich gases(oxygen and carbon(IV)oxide go through the nose, trachea and the lungs to the blood stream
Michael
what is holistic
Kibrom Reply
Holistic means encompassing the whole of a thing, and not just the part. Holistic medicine looks at the whole person for answers, not just at physical symptoms. You might have heard of holistic medicine, which tries to treat someone as mind and body, instead of treating only the part of the patient
I want to learn one by one system like skeleton system... muscular system
Mary Reply
i want to learn this
Kibrom
what is the difference between regional anatomy and system anatomy
David
system anatomy is when we study the system like digestive, circulatory, reproductive, but regional anatomy is studying the anatomy by regions of body like anatomy of neck, thorax, head etc. Regional anatomy may include system anatomy...
Biplav
yes
Anshika
explain in details factors that affects bone development
Precious Reply
describe the process of bone healing
Precious
out line factors that delays bone healing
Precious
actually,for the bone formation they must be sufficient level of calcium,phosphorus and vitamin D in the body for it to happen smoothly.
lucky
the above mentioned substances are the ones able for the formation and repairing of bones.
lucky
explain in details factors that affects bone development
Precious

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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